Down Syndrome Breastfeeding

All Downs babies have different degrees or severity of the disorder so some babies may find it more difficult to breastfeed than others.

As time passes, your baby gets stronger, and breastfeeding will become easier. All babies and mothers need some time to get accustomed to breastfeeding

Down Syndrome Breastfeeding Advantages

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Advantages of breastfeeding a Down Syndrome baby

  • Improved tongue and mouth coordination, which will result in fewer speech problems.
  • Increased protection from bowel problems and infections. Infants with Down syndrome benefit tremendously from this, as they are at higher risk of developing respiratory tract infections, bowel problems, and other infections.
  • Increased gut protection and increased immune support
  • Bonding between the mother and child especially needed to help the baby fulfill his/her full potential in life and to help the mother come to terms with the situation.
  • Breastfeeding lowers the chances of obesity later on in life, which is quite common in Downs syndrome children.
  • Breast milk promotes optimal brain development. This increased brain stimulation through DHA in breast milk is extremely valuable for Down syndrome newborns.
  • The other benefits of breastfeeding for all babies.

Down Syndrome Breastfeeding Difficulties

Is breastfeeding a Down syndrome baby more difficult?

  • A baby with down syndrome has a lower muscle tone, and this makes it more difficult for him/her to stay latched on. That is why it’s so important that the baby breastfeeds, as breastfeeding will help improve muscle tone in the baby’s face.
  • Babies with Down syndrome often have a very flat tongue, which makes it difficult to swallow milk.
  • Breastfeeding does usually take longer when breastfeeding a Down syndrome baby, mostly due to weaker muscle tone.
  • A down syndrome baby is usually sleepier in the first few weeks than other babies. How to keep a baby awake for breastfeeding.
  • If the mother has a low milk supply and needs to start supplementing, it's best to start using a lactation aid “supplementary nursing system." 

Breastfeeding Advice

  • Provide extra head and jaw support at the breast, so that the baby doesn’t tire out from trying to keep his/her head in position.
  • Before breastfeeding the baby, the mother can hand express or pump a little milk, just until the milk starts to flow. This is done because Down's syndrome infants sometimes don’t suck hard enough, to get the milk flowing.
  • A mother with a Down's syndrome infant will find it easier to breastfeed her baby in a breastfeeding sling. This provides the baby with full access to the breast, most of the time. Learn more about the benefits of kangaroo care and wearing your baby
  • If she finds that her milk supply is a little low, she can start pumping after breastfeeding sessions.
  • Breastfeeding the baby upright may help, especially if the baby is choking and coughing at the breast.
  • Try different breastfeeding positions, until one is found that is comfortable.
  • To ensure that the baby is getting enough milk, she should frequently be feeding and should be nursing every two hours.
  • Burp the baby often, as he/she might swallow more air than other babies while breastfeeding.
  • Feed the baby as frequently as possible.
  • Skin on skin contact is beneficial.
  • See a lactation consultant if possible.

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